Is There Too Much Emphasis on Film Music in War Movies?

Comments on two of my recent reviews (The Front Line and Special Forces) made me question the use of music in war movies. I remember that I was once not so keen on music in films and that I had liked some, like The Army of Shadows, especially because they hardly use any music at all. When it comes to more action-driven movies, I think that the music is to a large extent the reason why I like them so much. I couldn’t imagine Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, King Arthur, The Last of the Mohicans and many more without music.

On the other hand I’ve seen a few movies who would have been good with other or no music. In those cases the choice was so bad, it really damaged the film. One of those examples is The Killing Fields.

I think one of the problems is whether the score has been composed especially for the film or whether they just added known songs and pieces of music. This can work as well, as we can see in some of the Vietnam movies, but often it doesn’t.

Should a movie not be excellent without music? How important is it? Is there a overuse of music, particularly in US productions?

What do you think?

Let’s find out but share your opinion as well and name some examples in which the music was used especially well or others in which it damaged the movie.

14 thoughts on “Is There Too Much Emphasis on Film Music in War Movies?

  1. the war movie buff says:

    Provocative post. To tell the truth, I do not really notice it unless it’s extremely good or extremely bad. You mention some movies where the score was extremely good, but most movies the score is simply forgettable. I can not recall any war movies where the score ruined the movie for me. I can remember several that when I think of the movie I immediately hear the theme in my head (ex. The Great Escape, The Dambusters, Bridge on the River Kwai, Where Eagles Dare).

    I am much more concerned with the overuse of CGI in American movies than I am with the pompous music.

    When a movie has little or no music I view it as more of a stunt than anything else. There is a reason why 99% of movies have music. It enhances the entertainment and sets the mood.

    • I have a feeling the use of music is very manipulative. It triggers emotions we would not have without and frankly, how good would some of the movies be withouth the music? I don’t mind, as I always say I love great film music but we have to bear in mind that it greatly influences our viewing.
      In the case of The Front Line, the music and choice of actors made the movie more accessible for Westerners as it felt quite American.
      I’m not a 100% sure what to think about it.
      Yeah, I see why you would not like te overuse of CGI. A theme for another post…

  2. Novroz says:

    Excellent topic Caroline!
    For me, it is very important. Every movie needs music….not only the war ones. It gives more meaning to the story.

  3. M.G. says:

    Hmm … I love movie soundtracks. There is the best theme in war movies the one from The Thin Red Line:

    Music theme “Landing on Peleliu” from The Pacific is gret too:

  4. M.G. says:

    There are two war themes which are perfect too but they are not from movies, They are from … Call of Duty 🙂 However, they are really perfekt ones.

    “Red Square” from first Call:

    Black Ops 2 trailer theme:

  5. M.G. says:

    Aaand the last one – known from History Channel:

  6. ZardexM says:

    I find it baffling that there seems to be no-one of similar opinion than myself and my wife.

    We both feel most modern movies have way to much and way too many music tracks even on top of each other.

    Movie Music is often very good though… but only when it allows an exit to emotions already smoldering from the atmosphere of the movie.

    Modern movies that have a story that could otherwise be good are too often ruined by too much meaningless and over-explanatory dialogue and too much overly manipulative and pushy music that feels like it’s forcibly glued on top of an otherwise good movie.

    Many movies become completely unwatchable (or rather unlistenable) because of too many sound tracks that are on too much of the time.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      I agree that music nowadays is very manipulative and I know there are some films I wouldn’t enjoy as much it it wasn’t for the music. But I think it also depends on whether you watch something which is rather action an entertainment driven, there music is part of it but more thought-provoking and thoughtful movies should not overuse it.
      I think many people are so used to have music on all the time that they sort of want that in their music as will.

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